Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on July 6, 2022

Elderberry and Cholesterol

Exploring the medicinal scope of elderberry is like peeling an onion; just when we think we have got to the end, there is another layer waiting.

Elderberry takes center stage against all other competing natural healing products. Whether it’s the high antioxidant value or the nutrient-rich composition, elderberry has certainly lived up to its name as a superfruit.

Given its use in the food and pharmaceutical industry, we must see how well it fares as a dietary supplement. Does elderberry lower cholesterol? Let’s find out.

Elderberry for Cholesterol

Few plant derivatives have managed to showcase such versatility as that of black elderberry (Sambucus nigra). The antioxidant remains a staple of medicine for centuries and manages to bag itself a trophy in every field. Science is actively researching elderberry to verify its cure-all claims, but what exactly is elderberry?

Elderberries are dark, purple berries originating from the European elder tree. Today, it’s best known for its ability to boost immunity, treat cold and flu symptoms, and even help individuals get through COVID. However, its medicinal and healing tendencies have been touted for centuries.

It is said that the father of medicine, Hippocrates, referred to elderberry as a cure for many diseases. In the 17th century, the European pagans perceived the berry as a symbol of spiritual healing. Today, this usage extends to a range of physical diseases and preventive measures.

Before we look at the research, let’s discuss cholesterol and triglycerides in more detail.

What is Cholesterol?

Many bodily functions, such as building the cell wall, digestion, or producing hormones, depend on cholesterol for smooth functioning. Cholesterol is a waxy type of fat found in human and animal cells. The liver supplies more than three-quarters of our total cholesterol requirement, and the rest comes through dietary intake.

Cholesterol in our blood attaches itself to proteins to reach other parts of the body. These proteins, called lipoproteins, come in two varieties:

  • High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL), referred to as “good cholesterol,” rids the body of excess cholesterol, broken down by the liver.
  • Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL), referred to as “bad cholesterol,” carries cholesterol to the blood cells but often leaves behind residue and causes plaque or buildup.

Milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) is the unit of measure for cholesterol numbers. For a young, healthy individual, optimal LDL should be less than 100 mg/dL. While a certain amount of cholesterol is vital for the body, the excessive presence of LDL can lead to cardiovascular problems.

On the other hand, while HDL may be the “good cholesterol,” that does not mean it can be left unchecked. For proper functioning, higher HDL levels are beneficial and should be maintained. Typically, this means you’ll want to be at 60 mg/dL or higher. Less than 40 mg/dL and your risk of developing heart disease increases.

In other words, it’s a balancing act. Diet plays the most important role in mitigating high LDL cholesterol while maintaining optimal HDL. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in saturated fats are ideal. Regular exercise is also important for maintaining cardiovascular health. (1)

What are Triglycerides?

Triglycerides are another waxy form of fat found in the bloodstream. Most fats we eat throughout our diet are triglycerides and supply more than half of the body’s needs.

Both triglycerides and cholesterol are lipids (types of fat). While cholesterol actively works to maintain the body’s natural functions, triglycerides provide us with the energy we need.

Similar to cholesterol, high levels of triglycerides can create an imbalance in the body. It can lead to cardiovascular problems and liver and pancreas damage. Dietary and lifestyle changes can lower triglyceride values. Eating fiber-rich diets and keeping the body active are some ways you can prevent or treat high triglycerides. (2)

Why Elderberry?

Elderberries are a powerhouse of nutrients, ready to cure and prevent a range of diseases and lower inflammation in the body. Thanks to its anthocyanin and flavonoid composition, they are one of the most favored supplements for treating antiviral infections and acquiring immune support.

Elderberry’s health benefits may include, but are not limited to, the following:

Now, let’s look at the research to identify the precise relationship between elderberry and cholesterol.

Does Elderberry Lower Cholesterol?

A 2004 randomized trial presents very promising results indicating that elderberry might be a great anchor to lower cholesterol levels. About 34 healthy volunteers took part in a study analyzing LDL oxidation using elderberry extract. The results showed that high but safe elderberry dosages can reduce LDL cholesterol and serum lipids. (3)

An animal study from 2018 studied the correlation between long-term elderberry supplementation and HDL function. It observed elderberry significantly increased the HDL function, which means optimum “good” cholesterol in the body. (4)

A 2015 study in mice also found similar results. Apart from a positive influence on the HDL function, it also noted an overall reduction in cholesterol content through elderberry. (5)

Does Elderberry Lower Triglycerides?

One realm that science is yet to explore is the connection between elderberry and triglycerides. Available evidence on cholesterol also takes note of triglyceride levels and allows us to reach reasonable conclusions.

The International Journal of Molecular Sciences conducted an animal study to observe the effect of elderberry supplements on diabetic rats.

It concluded that the levels of cholesterol, HDL and LDL, and triacylglycerol had significant reduction due to elderberry supplementation. The observed positive influence also led the scientists to conclude the potential of elderberry diets to alleviate metabolic disorders. (6)

A 2013 study focuses on similar ideas with human subjects using the dwarf elder (Sambucus ebulus), a close relative of Sambucus nigra. After a high-dose supplementation of an elderberry fruit infusion, there was a significant alteration in the cholesterol and triglycerides. It also helped achieve an optimum ratio between HDL and LDL. (7)

How to Take Elderberry for High Cholesterol

There are three ways you can take elderberry to reduce high cholesterol.

Elderberry Gummies

Most studies examining elderberry and cholesterol have focused on supplementation of the extract. Elderberry gummies also contain other valuable substances, like zinc and vitamin C. The antioxidants from the extract work in unison with the additional ingredients to produce a thoroughly beneficial immune response.

To put it straight, elderberry gummies will give you much higher immunity against diseases than other forms of elderberry. Gummies are easy to chew, palatable and ideal for adults and children.

Elderberry Syrup

You can easily find good quality off-the-shelf elderberry syrups at health stores. They are great for mild immunity but are often a bit more expensive than other forms. Compared to the ingredients in gummies, syrups usually lack the extra punch of vitamin C and zinc.

Elderberry Tea

Elderberry tea can act as a warm, healthy beverage to take when you feel sick. However, similar to syrups, homemade tea lacks the power-packed composition of supplements. But the warmth can be an excellent companion when dealing with cold and flu symptoms.

Dosage Recommendations

How much elderberry should I take for cholesterol? Controlling your diet is the best way to positively influence cholesterol levels. Outside of eating healthy and exercising regularly, you can supplement between 150-300 mg of elderberry extract per day. This is a safe and effective dose for maintaining optimal cholesterol levels.

Potential Side Effects

What are the side effects of elderberry? Adverse reactions are very rare while consuming elderberry as recommended in supplement form. However, raw elderberry fruit or any part of the elder tree can trigger gastrointestinal problems.

Frequent elderberry consumption can also lower blood sugar levels, so diabetic patients should be cautious of the quantity they consume.

Who should not take elderberry? As long as you are careful about any possible allergies and buy from a verified brand, elderberry supplements are safe for adults and children. However, due to limited research, women should avoid taking elderberry while pregnant.

Final Thoughts on Elderberry and Cholesterol

Is elderberry good for cholesterol? The answer appears to be, yes. Remember, supplements should not be a crutch to overcome poor lifestyle choices. But they can be helpful to consume when you have the other causes of high cholesterol under control.

Elderberry seems to be a great natural supplement to help maintain the proper balance between LDL and HDL in the body. It may even see greater results when paired with other herbal supplements, such as turmeric, which has also been shown to influence cholesterol with regular use.

There is a reason why our ancestors had belief in the power of elderberry. Science is consistently working to unveil its benefits. Using elderberry for high cholesterol is one such mystery that is now supported by scientific evidence.

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